U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Independent filmmaker hit with a flash-bang grenade while covering Minneapolis protest

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 27, 2020


Was the journalist targeted?
May 27, 2020

Chris Phillips, an independent filmmaker, was hit in the leg with a flash-bang canister while covering a protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 27, 2020.

Protests began in the city in response to the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, during his arrest in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd’s death sparked weeks of protests across the country.

Phillips is a Ferguson, Missouri-based filmmaker who made a documentary about the Black Lives Matter movement following the 2014 shooting of Black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson. He has covered protests across the country, posting live videos on Facebook. In May, he drove to Minneapolis to report on the response to Floyd’s killing, he told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker.

Phillips said that when he arrived near the city’s Third Police Precinct, tear gas was being used by police to try to disperse a protest there. About 45 minutes later, he said, protesters and police were in a standoff. Minneapolis police, Hennepin County sheriff’s deputies, Minnesota State Patrol officers and St. Paul police were present at the protest, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

Phillips said he squatted down in order to film a shot looking up from behind a protester toward the police. He said they were about 100 feet from a line of police officers when a flash-bang canister was fired in their direction. Phillips said the grenade exploded and the canister struck him on his right leg.

“It was kind of like the war movies where your ears just ring,” he said. “You know, you get that high pitch, white noise in your ears.”

The object that hit him was about two inches long and one inch wide, he said. He said that he did not require any medical attention.

Phillips said he was not displaying press credentials or wearing anything that would identify him as a journalist beyond his professional-grade camera. He noted that he was surrounded by hundreds of people, and he did not believe that press identification would have made a difference.

“They look at, there's 50 people around you that are not press, and if they just want to do what they want to do or they just want to get people to move back, they don't care who's in the mix,” Phillips said.

A spokesperson for the Minneapolis Police Department declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation related to police use of force.

Multiple other journalists were struck by police crowd control munitions while covering protests in Minneapolis on May 27.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting hundreds of incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested, struck by crowd control ammunition or tear gas, or having their equipment damaged while covering these protests across the country. Find these incidents here.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].